Cradle to Cradle
Remaking the Way We Make Things
Publication Date: April 2002
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A manifesto for a radically different philosophy and practice of manufacture and environmentalism
"Reduce, reuse, recycle" urge environmentalists; in other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. As William McDonough and Michael Braungart argue in their provocative, visionary book, however, this approach perpetuates a one-way, "cradle to grave" manufacturing model that dates to the Industrial Revolution and casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic. Why not challenge the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world, they ask.
In fact, why not take nature itself as our model? A tree produces thousands of blossoms in order to create another tree, yet we do not consider its abundance wasteful but safe, beautiful, and highly effective; hence, "waste equals food" is the first principle the book sets forth. Products might be designed so that, after their useful life, they provide nourishment for something new-either as "biological nutrients" that safely re-enter the environment or as "technical nutrients" that circulate within closed-loop industrial cycles, without being "downcycled" into low-grade uses (as most "recyclables" now are).
Elaborating their principles from experience (re)designing everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, the authors make an exciting and viable case for change.
William McDonough is an architect and the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners, Architecture and Community Design, based in Charlottesville, Virginia. From 1994 to 1999 he served as dean of the school of architecture at the University of Virginia. In 1999 Time magazine recognized him as a "Hero for the Planet," stating that "his utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world." In 1996, he received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, the highest environmental honor given by United States.
Michael Braungart is a chemist and the founder of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) in Hamburg, Germany. Prior to starting EPEA, he was the director of the chemistry section for Greenpeace. Since 1984 he has been lecturing at universities, businesses, and institutions around the world on critical new concepts for ecological chemistry and materials flow management. Dr. Braungart is the recipient of numerous honors, awards, and fellowships from the Heinz Endowment, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, and other organizations.
In 1995 the authors created McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (www.mbdc.com), a product and systems development firm assisting client companies in implementing their unique sustaining design protocol. Their clients include Ford Motor Company, Nike, Herman Miller, BASF, DesignTex, Pendleton, Volvo, and the city of Chicago.
"Environmentalists too rarely apply the ecological wisdom of life to our problems. Asking how a cherry tree would design an energy efficient building is only one of the creative 'practices' that McDonough and Braungart spread, like a field of wild flowers, before their readers. This book will give you renewed hope that, indeed, 'it is darkest before the dawn'."—Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club
"Achieving the great economic transition to more equitable, ecologically sustainable societies requires nothing less than a design revolution—beyond today's fossilized industrialism. This enlightened and enlightening book shows us how—and indeed, that 'God is in the details.' A must for every library and every concerned citizen."—Hazel Henderson, author of Building a Win-Win World and Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy
"[McDonough and Braungart's] ideas are bold, imaginative, and deserving of serious attention."
--Ben Ehrenreich, Mother Jones magazine
"[A] clear, accessible manifesto... the authors' original concepts are an inspiring reminder that humans are capable to much more elegant environmental solutions than the ones we've settled for in the last half-century."
"A readable provocative treatise that 'gets outside the box' in a huge way. Timely and inspiring."
"Our planet is alive and the wondrous web of biodiversity provides us with all we need -- clean air, water, soil, and energy, as well as food, medicine, resources. Whatever we do, that's what should be the highest priority for protection and we have to adapt everything else to that end. With this book, McDonough and Braungart open our eyes to the way to genuine sustainability by the study of nature and mimicking her ways. This is a groundbreaking book that should be the Bible for the Second Industrial Revolution."
--Dr. David Suzuki, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia